Chapter 4, Ronin.
One Humvee richer Brooklyn's convoy continued south in order to meet with the Resistance.
There was no stopping time, however, and afternoon soon burned into evening with sunset fast approaching. In these dangerous times it was better to hole up somewhere safe and wait out the night rather than taking your chances by traveling… an interesting consideration coming from a Gargoyle.
"Stop the convoy," Katana suddenly cried as they crossed a rolling hill. "Stop now!"
The four vehicles pulled to a stop and the warriors got out. They were nearing woodland country again, easily seen from their vantage at the top of the hill. Patchy forests cut the green fields under a dimming but cloudless sky, a distant river sparkled.
"What's up," Brooklyn asked his wife.
"There may be a trap down there," she replied.
"Shit," Val whispered as Brooklyn ducked back into the Humvee and took out the maps and satellite feed.
"Lock and load!" Brooklyn cried as he laid out the map across the hood of the Humvee and checked the satellite reports. The others clothed themselves in body armor and helmets, loading and readying guns and other weapons.
"Are we loading for Sentients or Minions," Val asked Brooklyn.
"Either way you're on the Fifty Mil," Brooklyn replied without looking up.
Val sighed in frustration, "I know that. I'm talking about the others."
"Let me worry about them," Brooklyn said, according the readouts the route, along with the rest of the state of South Dakota, was clear and quiet. But that hardly trumped Katana's reliable instincts.
He checked the map and his heart sank as what he saw did not surprise him. No side routes were well maintained or considered safe. Taking an alternate direction would waste nearly half a week and they would have to risk capture in nearly a dozen settlements.
"How sure are you," Brooklyn asked Katana.
Katana was already dressed for war, two Katana blades slung over her shoulders, a bow and full quiver of arrows, a bandolier of Shuriken, and four daggers that could be thrown. Petite Katana may not look fearsome, but she had killed hundreds while armed with less.
"Completely," she replied.
"That's too bad," Val said, she wore an American military helmet, green flack jacket, an now carried an impressive Browning heavy machinegun. "We are going to lose a lot of time going the Mount Rushmore way."
Brooklyn folded the map, "we are continuing forward."
"What," Val demanded and looked to Katana. "How many are down there?"
"I don't know," Katana answered.
Val glanced back to the company who still lingered outside their vehicles, "get inside and ready to move out!" She shouted at them before turning on Brooklyn. "There could be a thousand of them just waiting to bushwack us!"
Brooklyn was silent.
"I'm not going to throw my life away because you are too lazy to take another road!" Val cried. "I'm leaving and I am taking as many with me as I can convince of your foolishness." She turned away.
"Before you go, you should take a look at this," Brooklyn handed her the Wanted poster. "Katana, you should look too."
"What!" Val demanded upon seeing her own picture.
"I don't understand," Katana said to Brooklyn.
"What's not to understand," Brooklyn said. "Congress did not trust my promise to fight for them and put out a hit on me and my friends; that would be you two, by the way."
"Those motherfuckers!" Val roared.
"Our children," Katana breathed to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn frowned and looked away, "I don't know what Congress wants with us. Maybe they just want to keep us in a place where they can keep us under control, maybe they'll line us up with our families before a bullet scarred wall. Either way, I don't want to find out. So let's not do anything foolish like go to a settlement where their agents can capture us."
"I had a nice house, a good boyfriend, and horses!" Val cried.
"Maybe you'll find something better when you settle in the freelands, like Katana and I will have to," Brooklyn said. "Babe, what's the name for the Samurai without a master?"
"Ronin," Katana answered.
"We're Ronin now," Brooklyn said. "We no longer have a state to serve, which means our contracts to each other are null and void. I am going to continue south and meet with the Resistance as planned. Then I am going to attempt to lead an attack on Avalon, as per my deal with the Hive. If any of you want out, now's your chance."
"I am still with you," Angela said.
"As am I," Katana said.
Val sighed, "I have nothing better to do, I guess."
"Alright," Brooklyn smiled. "Let's go for a ride."
"I'm on point," Katana said.
Progress was slow.
The convoy had to travel slowly to allow Katana to scout ahead. Brooklyn hated it when she was out and unprotected, he also hated the rapid descent of the sun. Once it was dark it would be easier for any ambush, human or otherwise, and would be harder to hold such an attack off.
"Hold up," Katana reported via mic from ahead.
Brooklyn cast a nervous glance at the sun before looking into the view screen (Katana had taken a camera along so Brooklyn could see what she was looking at). Sure enough, humanoids were wandering in a loose group across the Interstate near a rusted out vehicle. Their lack of cohesion advertised that they were probably more rogue Minions.
"You have to be kidding me," Brooklyn muttered to himself before calling Katana. "Is that all of them?"
"The region is ripe with wandering groups," Katana reported. "Minion and otherwise."
"Fantastic," Brooklyn said. "We're moving through. You better be handy with that thing, Val."
"Yeah, yeah," Val muttered as she stood behind the machine gun out the Humvee's porthole.
Brooklyn's crew came up on the herd of Minions in a remarkably short amount of time; they pulled to a stop.
"Hey Brooklyn, I've thought of more cures to life's ails," Val said.
"Yeah," Brooklyn said.
"Diet Soda that tastes like the real thing," Val said. "Movies where they cast Russell Crowe appropriately…"
Those in the vehicle chuckled.
"When hot shirtless boys play volleyball on a sunlit beach," Val continued. "It's not so bad when girls do the same thing."
Brooklyn chuckled, then spoke through the radio, "Katana, we're waiting on you."
"I don't know," Katana reported back.
Brooklyn closed his eyes in annoyed frustration, "we can't camp here, babe. We need to reach Vermillion tonight."
"These Minions are the only ones I see," she said. "But there may be enemies hiding in the trees."
"Copy," Brooklyn switched frequencies so he could address all the vehicles. "There is a small horde of rogue Minions ahead and we need to push through. We are not here to retake the highway, the cavalry will do that later. Just push through and do not stop for anything. If we get split up, regroup on the other side."
"Val! Are you ready?" Brooklyn asked and she nodded. "Then let's go."
The driver powered the Humvee forward, slowly climbing in speed until the needle was buried in the red. The mob of Minions loomed close, eventually turning their attention to the charging vehicles.
"Katana," Brooklyn called over the mic. "I don't want you to do anything unless the shit really hits the fan."
A moment later Val's fifty millimeter roared in the direction of the mob, almost instantly two of the Minions fell apart. The rest charged at the convoy, they jumped over the concrete center divider and came near the rusted out car.
Val's bullets chewed apart another Minion and were working on a fourth when a Minion touched the rusted abandoned car. Brooklyn seemed to remember trying to say something when that car erupted.
Brooklyn didn't remember the explosion itself, just that suddenly he and the Humvee was engulfed in a great black plume. The front visors were shattered, Val was slumped in her harness and was either dead or unconscious, the driver was screaming out something while wiping blood from his eyes, and Angela was reaching out from the back seat to grab the wheel and keep the Humvee on the road.
Brooklyn couldn't hear because his possibly shattered ear drums were emitting a scream into his brain. His sense of balance was skewed and the world tilted and spun; the driver continued screaming unintelligible words.
Brooklyn was aware that they were stopping.
"Don't stop! Keep going," Brooklyn screamed, but his own words were cottony and muffled in his own mind. He slammed his own foot over the driver's, bucking the Humvee forward.
Brooklyn slapped out the spiderweb shattered visors and they burst out of the black cloud. Soon, however, the engine began to chug and struggle, the vehicle came to a clattering stop.
Feeling drunk and confused, Brooklyn tumbled out of the shotgun seat. Unable to gain his balance, he crawled along in the waxy dry grass until finally, his dinner was regurgitated.
Thankfully, that seemed to do the trick. His world leveled out and refocused and as he stood he became aware that someone was shooting at him.
Angela rushed out and grabbed him, dragging him back to the safety of the Humvee.
"The hell," Brooklyn asked while still feeling dizzy, he now saw incoming rounds coming in from the surrounding forest. "What's going on?"
"Ambushed! By Resistance," the Driver cried.
"How's Val," Brooklyn tried to get to his feet but a round slapped into the Humvee just above his head. "Val!" Brooklyn cried with no answer. "Where is the rest of the convoy?"
"They're over there," Angela pointed in the direction of the smoke plume.
"They must have turned back at the explosion," the driver added.
"Damn it," Brooklyn growled. "I told them to regroup on this side! Doesn't anyone listen anymore?"
Resistance Fighters streaked in from the woods while covering fire raged over their heads. They soon surrounded the Humvee before Brooklyn had a chance to get a weapon. "Surrender!" They cried.
Brooklyn and the Driver locked eyes, it was a hopeless situation and they knew it.
"Alright! We're done!" Brooklyn cried and raised his arms.
"Boy, my luck is fantastic lately," Brooklyn muttered as they were taken into custody. "To be chumped out by Resistance Fighters in my own country."
"Hello, Brooklyn," a thin shirtless man with every muscle visible and a skull painted over his face greeted. "I was wondering I would finally capture a member of Congress."
Katana landed on a nearby tree branch, knocked and arrow, and watched the developing situation below. Her man had been captured by the Resistance, but that was not the worst that could happen. She waited.
She and Brooklyn had set out on this doomed journey in order to meet Demona and Xanatos, now leaders of the Resistance. This warparty could bring them to meet with said leaders, so being captured was not necessarily a bad thing and thus negating the need for her to spring a foolish rescue attempt.
However, Katana would be there to watch, a waiting Nemesis, ready to spring in case things went wrong. She would wait, just in case, along every step of the trip to come.
"I am Brooklyn, I have been traveling to Sioux City to meet with Demona and or Xanatos," Brooklyn said. "It is very important I meet with them as soon as possible."
"And so you shall," Skull Face smiled. "As my war prize. Demona just may give you the 'Alejandro' treatment."
Brooklyn shook his head sarcastically, mimicking his words.
"Hey, this one's still alive," another cried from the top of the Humvee where Val still slumped behind her machine gun.
"Val," Brooklyn whispered.
"We don't have room to carry wounded," Skull Face said. "Kill her."
The Resistance Fighter drew his knife and rested it at Val's throat, Val was still out, odds were she would wake in the next world.
"Wait!" Brooklyn cried. "That woman is a cerebral currier. She carries a message for Demona and Xanatos in her mind!"
"Don't you know the message," Skull Face asked.
"If I did, I wouldn't need a currier," Brooklyn replied.
"Whatever," Skull Face smiled. "Kill her!"
The Fighter at the top of the Humvee shrugged as his knife bit under Val's chin, one tug and her life would be over in a gush of blood all over the vehicle's roof.
Katana watched from her nearby vantage point, she drew the arrow to her ear and hesitated. She remembered that just the night before she wanted to kill the red Gargoyle named Val. Now she had the opportunity to allow the Resistance to do the deed for her.
Her hesitation lasted for only a millisecond, she realized that if anyone was going to deal with Val it was going to be herself.
She let the arrow fly, a perfect shot like always. What had been a fun pastime back home now paid off with an arrow straight through her enemy's eye.
The man toppled off the Humvee and Val's life would continue, for now.
The Resistance Warparty looked in her direction, and in that time Katana had already knocked another arrow. She let that fly into the heart of the Fighter standing next to Skull Face. She took out another one, but the element of surprise was over and they were raising their weapons to take her out.
Katana let out a famous war cry and drew her twin swords. She jumped from the tree and drove her foot into another Fighter.
The Figher's seemed to be stuck in slow motion, in a time warp that rendered them impotent before the blue Gargress.
She divided a Kalashnikov in half and drove her polished steel into the Fighter's guts, flipping him over her shoulder.
Another raised his hand, whether it was a pitiful attack or defense was hard to determine. She took that arm off his body with a circular motion of her free blade. While the blade was completing its motion, the other free blade flew in a murderous arch, dividing the head off the final resisting Fighter.
Brooklyn grabbed Skull Face and restrained him, all while proudly proclaiming "that's my girl!"
Another Fighter attempted to run, but Katana smoothly snapped out a Shuriken and threw it into his neck.
Just like that, all resistance was over from the Warparty. Only Skull Face, a woman, and a pair of child aged Fighters remained. The kids were holding each other in fearful protection as Katana marched on them, she raised her sword.
"That's enough, Katana," Brooklyn said. "We're not going to kill fellow Sentients unless we have to, even if they are Resistance."
Sometimes it was hard for Katana to stop, but she lowered her sword, cleaned the blade, and sheathed it. "They're cute now, but eventually they'll grow up."
"I said, enough," Brooklyn repeated.
Brooklyn grabbed his prisoner and dragged him to the kids next to the Humvee, the Driver did the same with his prisoner.
"I'll make you all a deal," Brooklyn announced to the prisoners. "If you serve as stretcher bearers I will let you go when we reach our destination instead of turning you over to Congress."
"Brooklyn," Skull Face said.
"Katana, watch the Prisoners," Brooklyn ordered as he went to the medical compartment of the Humvee and quickly took out the medipack and the backboard. He and Driver went to the top of the Humvee where Val was still motionless in the porthole.
For a moment Brooklyn hoped she had been killed, a quick death was better than life long injuries, especially when he was not sure where she was going to get advanced treatment since they had been outlawed from the Reservation.
But Val was alive, her Airway Breathing and Circulation all seemed good though her face was caked with drying blood.
"My god," Brooklyn muttered at the sight of her. He checked her neck and did not feel any breaks or deformities. He then palpated her face, her nose was definitely broken, probably in more than one place, but the rest of the facial bones seemed okay.
"Brooklyn," Skull Face called again.
Brooklyn allowed himself to feel a little hope, but not much. The same forces that had ruined the Humvee had acted on Val's upper body and there was no telling what kind of internal injuries she may have. But, besides her nose, her bones seemed solid and a helmet had protected the rest of her head. He allowed himself to hope that she would make a full recovery.
"Alright," Brooklyn said to Driver. "You need to hold her head and I am going to pull her out by her shoulders. On your count..."
"Brooklyn," Skull Face called again.
Brooklyn whirled around, "Shut the fuck up! You're lucky I felt like taking prisoners today! If my friend never wakes up I just might change my mind!"
"We didn't mean to attack you," Skull Face said. "We were separated from our command near Vermillion and chased here by Super Minions. The ambush YOU triggered was set for THEM. Thanks."
"What!" Brooklyn cried, Vermillion was the final checkpoint and settlement before Hive Territory. "What were you doing in Vermillion!"
"Look!" Driver cried, pointing toward the forest line.
Brooklyn looked and saw at least a dozen floating people coming their way, these were no doubt Super Minions, probably loyal to the UnZ opposition.
"We are going to have to expedite this," Brooklyn said to Driver while cutting Val's restraints. They then roughly pulled her out.
Inaccurate fireballs were already raining in around them as Brooklyn crudely strapped Val onto the backboard. The Humvee was hit and quickly started blazing.
"Go! Now," Brooklyn cried as the two boys grabbed each end of the backboard; the group ran into the woods. A dozen Super Minions arrived moments later but were distracted by the dead from the battle.
While they gorged, Brooklyn and the others escaped into the forest.